US whistleblower Edward Snowden says smartphone of one of Jamal Khashoggi's friends, in exile in Canada, had been infected with NSO's Pegasus spyware that allowed Saudis to collect information on Riyadh critic.
Software made by an Israeli cybersecurity firm was used to track murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a former US National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower claimed on Wednesday.
Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel via a video call from Russia, Edward Snowden said Pegasus spyware sold to governments by NSO Group Technologies was used to track opponents.
"The Saudis, of course, knew that Khashoggi was going to go to the consulate, as he got an appointment.
But how did they know his intention and plans?”
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Once inside, he was immediately strangled and then dismembered, according to the Istanbul prosecutor's office.
After announcing he was killed, Saudi Arabia has yet to reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body.
Khashoggi's friend targeted
Snowden said the smartphone of one of Khashoggi's friends, who was living in exile in Canada, had been infected with NSO's Pegasus spyware.
He said the software allowed the Saudis to collect information about Khashoggi.
"The truth is that they pursued some of his friends through a programme written by the Israeli company."
A report issued by Canadian research institute Citizen Lab said: "We have high confidence that the cellphone of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist and Canadian permanent resident, was targeted and infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware."
World's most powerful mobile spyware
The software, which allows almost unlimited surveillance of mobile phones, is seen as the world's most powerful mobile spyware application.
Snowden highlighted Israel's high-tech capabilities, but warned that accepting too much government surveillance and too easily acceding to the argument that it is needed for security reasons posed serious risks.
"If we can allow ourselves to be terrorised by someone with nothing but a knife, to reorder our societies for the convenience of state power ... we've stopped being citizens and we've started being subjects," said Snowden
Snowden, who leaked thousands of documents detailing a long-term surveillance program by the US government, was granted asylum by Russia in 2013 after the US charged him with espionage.
His residence permit in Russia was extended until 2020.